Littler et al. 1991

scientific article | J Exp Mar Bio Ecol

Deep-water rhodolith distribution, productivity, and growth history at sites of formation and subsequent degradation

Littler MM, Littler DS, Hanisak MD


This study provides the first quantitative measures of deep-water (i.e., below scuba depths) rhodolith development, distribution, abundance, and primary productivity at sites of both active formation and breakdown. The 1.27-km2 upper platform surface of San Salvador Seamount, Bahamas, ranges in depth from 67 to 91 m and averages 95.8% cover of rhodoliths that contribute an estimated 391 t organic C·yr−1 to deep-sea productivity. The predominant nongeniculate coralline alga of the slope environment has an extremely narrow PI curve (photosynthesis vs. irradiance) of net primary production (0.005) to slightly beyond 0.24 μmol·m−2·−1 PAR) suggesting that some deep-water benthic algae may be acclimated to restricted light ranges. Platform areas contain up to fice-deep accumulations (≈45 cm thick) of rhodoliths with their visible, planar (2-D), crustose algal cover (68.5%) composed of 41% Lithophyllum sp., 14.9% average nongeniculate corallines, and 12.6% Peyssonnelia sp. Platform rhodoliths also contain ≈25% average planar cover of the foraminiferan Gypsina sp. overlying the rock-penetrating chlorophyte Ostreobium sp. On the steep slopes of the seamount, to a depth of 290 m, rhodoliths that have spilled down from the relatively flat platform average 17.4% cover. These nodules tend to be concentrated in fan-shaped deposits that are most prevalent (33.3% cover) on the west side (leeward) of the mount where they are more abundant near the top of the slope than on the other three sides. Cover of living crustose algae on the deeper slope rhodoliths averages only 22.8% and is made up of 14.8% unidentified nongeniculate corallines, 6% Lithophyllum sp., and 2% Peyssonnelia. Gypsina sp. is not an important component of the slope nodules. Biotic overstory on the seamout slopes is greatly reduced relative to the platform, restricted mainly to bedrock, and consists mostly of Halimeda, gorgonians, and sponges along with scattered patches of small frondose algae. Over platform depths from 67 to 91 m, rhodoliths are fairly uniform in composition and abundance. Ranging from 4 to 15 cm in diameter, with an average of ≈ 9 cm, they are roughly spherical with smooth living surfaces. The rhodoliths spilling down the steep slopes of the seamount to depths below 200 m are characteristically smaller (mean of ≈5 cm diameter), much rougher, and pittend by boring organisms. As shown by cross sections through the centers of the platform nodules, outer, relatively thin (1–3 cm thick), well-preserved envelopes overlie dead laminated crustose layerse. These layers surround much thicker cores of biotically altered carbonate (mostly coralline, foraminiferan, and coral) that have been extensively reworked by boring sponges, algae, polychaetes, and pelecypods. Borings have been infilled with carbonate detritus and are lithified to various degrees ranging from porous to dense and stony. Radiocarbon dates indicate that the outermost unaltered envelopes that underlie actively growing crusts are 112–880 yr old (x = 429 ybp), while the innermost unaltered layers average 731 ybp (range = 200–1100 ybp). The consistently abrupt transitions from the intact underlying layers of living.

Research sites

Depth range
67- 290 m

Mesophotic “mentions”
0 x (total of 6336 words)

* Presents original data
* Focused on `mesophotic` depth range
* Focused on `mesophotic coral ecosystem`

Community structure

Algae (Macro, Turf and Crustose Coralline)


Manned Submersible

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